Tips from the DFB Guide: Best Character Dining for YOU!

Character Dining! What’s a trip to Walt Disney World without at least one meal shared with your favorite Disney Characters?

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There’s simply no better way to kill two birds with one stone at Disney. You enjoy a hearty meal — oftentimes, it’s all-you-care-to-enjoy — and you get to interact with your favorite characters. Best of all — they come to you! There’s no waiting in line for hours to see them.

But you may think that a character dining experience isn’t for you if you don’t have kids in your party, or if your kiddos are as tall as you now. Or maybe you fear that the excitement and stimulation — not to mention all those trips back and forth to the buffet — will leave you and your toddler exhausted before you even get to the Parks.

Well, I happen to think that there’s a character dining experience just right for you, regardless of who makes up your unique party. So today, let’s look at a few tips that I’ve put together from countless Character Dining Meals — courtesy of the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2017!

And if you like what you see here, there are a lot more where these came from! To see all of our advice for choosing just the right Character Dining Experience, pick up your copy of the Guide today!

Character Dining With a Toddler: ‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast

You’ve decided that the time is right for your pre-schooler to enjoy breakfast with Character Appeal for the first time. Now, how in the World do you choose the meal that’s right for you?

Well, one thing to keep in mind is that most of the character dining experiences offer a buffet spread. This is great news when it comes to value. But juggling trips to the buffet, photo ops with characters, and a toddler who is stimulated to the max can be a challenge. So one of my favorite tips is to enjoy character dining that offers a sit-down…and stay down…meal. And one of the best is the Best Friends Breakfast at ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

To begin, well. Mickey in a Hawaiian Shirt. Best.

Say Aloha to Mickey and Friends at 'Ohana

Say Aloha to Mickey and Friends at ‘Ohana

But then, you have platters of Pastry and Bread, Fresh Fruit, and a Bountiful Breakfast Skillet brought to your table! And it’s as much as you want. And you don’t have to get up a SINGLE time to get any of it!

Family Breakfast Platter at 'Ohana

Family Breakfast Platter at ‘Ohana

Friendly servers also roam the dining area with Mickey Waffles! And you can ask for seconds. And thirds.

Mickey Waffles

Mickey Waffles

They even have Stitch waffles for the younger set.

Stitch Waffles for the Littles

Stitch Waffles for the Littles

Mickey, Lilo, and Stitch share relaxed times with you and pose for lots of pictures. And there’s no end to the smiles during the Coconut Races. It’s one of my favorite ways to kick off a Disney Day!

Character Dining For Grownups: Garden Grill

You may have witnessed the — shall we say, exuberant — spirit that pervades Chef Mickey’s at breakfast and dinner time. This character dining experience at Disney’s Contemporary is one of the Resort’s most popular and can be viewed from above as you whirl by on the Monorail. It can get downright raucous with excited children and loud music and the inevitable napkin twirling.

And that’s totally fine, if you’re up for it. But if you aren’t, you may leave with a splitting headache.

If you’re an adults-only group, there’s probably a good chance you’d prefer to keep it on the quiet side. You know what? You can still enjoy character dining and all the great photo ops. And Garden Grill in Epcot’s Future World is a great spot for it.

Garden Grill is located in The Land building. And while the character dining is super fun, the restaurant has another unique attribute: it revolves!

Living with the Land as seen from Garden Grill -- The Farmhouse

Living with the Land as seen from Garden Grill — The Farmhouse

Not at supersonic speed, of course. You won’t be getting motion sickness while you dine. But you will enjoy an ever-changing view of the Living with the Land attraction as you enjoy your dinner. And in between the changing tableaus, expect a few fun visitors!

Farmer Mickey

Farmer Mickey, Chip & Dale, and Pluto Join You for Dinner

As for eats, there isn’t a lot of traipsing about, as the Garden Grill is a family style meal. You’ll enjoy Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast, an all-you-care-to-enjoy meal of fresh baked Rolls with Butter, a Garden Salad, and a Trio of Entrees and Sides.

Platter of Meats, Mashed Potatoes, Dressing, and Gravy

Platter of Meats, Mashed Potatoes, Dressing, and Gravy

And the Short Cake is a deliciously sweet ending to your meal.

Short Cake

Short Cake

Ready to book your Advance Dining Reservation yet? I am. :-)

Character Dining with Teenagers: Crystal Palace

You blinked…and they grew up. You could swear that you had little ones just a second ago, and now, there are teenagers standing in their place.

And teenagers are awesome! Right? Well, I mean, most of the time. ;-) But even the most bored teen can remember Disney magic under the right circumstances.

If you’re looking to recapture some kid-at-heart fun with your bigger kiddos, a character meal might be just the thing. And I think the cuddly, lovable characters at Crystal Palace may be just the thing you’re looking for.

Welcome to the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom!

Welcome to the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom!

Dine on a dizzying array of American-inspired food while Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger too!) …and Piglet…and lovable Eeyore, of course… cavort between tables.

Tigger, Mugging for the Camera!

Tigger, Mugging for the Camera!

Not only will your kids enjoy seeing familiar faces from their childhood story times, but the setting is just as enchanting as the company. After all, this is the Crystal Palace! We’ve all looked at this spot with wonder since we were little. Right?

Don’t Miss Out on Any Disney Fun!

The 2017 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining, Second Edition, is now available!

2017 DFB Guide to WDW Dining Cover March 6

With more than 650 pages, the 2017 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World  Dining, Second Edition is full of tips and planning tools developed by Disney World experts over 20+ years of visits. We’ve done the research for you, so you’ll know just which spots will uniquely suit your family’s needs!

With mini-reviews of every single restaurant, bar, lounge, kiosk and more; an entire chapter on the best snacks in Disney World; full Disney Dining Plan analysis (and how to get FREE dining); and a full chapter on discounts and deals; you’ll have everything you need to plan your best vacation yet. Click here to get your copy of the 2017 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining, Second Edition E-book — and use code SAVE2017 for a 20% discount for a limited time!

Use code SAVE2017 at check-out for a 20% off the cover price!

Now let’s hear from all of you! What are your favorite tips and tricks for ordering things “off the menu” at Disney? Leave a comment with your favorite things!

Comments

  1. Miles says

    I did all three of these over the course of last year with just my wife and myself and I can say very strongly that these meals are so worth it! I think GG might be my favorite, just because I LOVE the Land and the food was excellent. However, if you are a breakfast person, you’ve got to get yourself to ‘Ohana, grab a glass of POG, and pig out.

  2. says

    My last two, no probably three visits to WDW I’ve tried making ADRs for ‘Ohana with no luck. Be Our Guest was a piece of (grey) cake in comparison!

  3. Kristina says

    This is so funny – these three are the EXACT same character meals we enjoyed on our June trip! And we loved every one!

  4. Friendly Mouse says

    Hello all! Let me just start off by saying I’ve been a huge fan of this site for awhile now and have used it multiple times back when I worked at WDW to find the perfect snack or meal! That being said, I have a lot of experience being “friends” with some of these lovely characters at these dining establishments and I thought it’d be helpful to put my two cents in.

    This list is nicely written and the three restaurants you chose are definitely some of the more popular character dining spots. I will say however, if you’re looking for the most time and candid pictures with characters, I’d op for Garden Grill, 1900 Park Fare, and Cape May Cafe. More than likely, these characters will visit your table twice, thus have more time to interact with you and little ones and sign whatever memorabilia you’d like signed.

    Another secret is the Garden Grove at the Swan. Pluto, Goofy, Chip, and Dale (and an occasional Mickey) can get so bored and lonely! You’ll definitely get a lot of character time there. The food is great and the atmosphere geared towards a teen and adult crowd.

    The restaurants you’ll get the least amount of interaction are Chef Mickey’s and Crystal Palace. My friends have a lot of guests to see as these are wildly popular areas, so you’ll most likely only get an autograph and very few pictures and no fun play.

    Tusker House and Ohana’s will also have limited character interactions, but we have what’s called “celebrations” where the music comes on and the characters will spend time dancing with your little ones. Chef Mickey’s and Crystal Palace have them too, but Ohana’s and Tusker House would be better choices since their songs are longer and the celebrations themselves make the characters more active with the guests.

    Hope this was all helpful! Have a magical Thursday! :)

  5. ran6110 says

    Really, really nice coverage…

    Every time I see your Family Breakfast Platter at ‘Ohana picture my wife has to stop me from making reservations right now!!!

  6. says

    We did ‘Ohana for breakfast on our last trip and loved it! The food was great and the character interaction was good. I wasn’t a huge fan of dinner there.. (not a fan of sweet meats).

    Garden Grille is on our short list for our next trip.

    We had fun at Chef Mickey’s for dinner last year, and wouldn’t rule out a return trip there.

  7. Kimberly H. says

    As a couple in our late 30’s with no kids and with no preference to eat with characters, we LOVE Garden Grill. It is my husband’s 2nd favorite restaurant (first place goes to lunch at Sci-Fi). My absolute favorite ride in EPCOT is Living with the Land so I love that aspect of seeing the different scenes. My husband loves the fact that it’s a delicious lazy man’s buffet ;). The salad is delicious and my husband loves the beef (we request to skip the fish when our server takes our drink order). And while I pretty much detest any and all desserts with fruit, they have one of the best fruit desserts I’ve ever had (I’m assuming, since I like it, that there’s a lot ‘o sugar in it!). They have characters there?! ;)

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